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On TV and On Target

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Human Target’s return to television means his return to comics as well. We look at the relationship between TV and comics and which version of Human Target will last longer.

Nowadays, if you want to see live-action recreations of your favorite comic book characters, all you have to do is make a trip to your local Cineplex. Each year, two or three comic book films are released, usually with one following closely on the heels of the other.

But it wasn’t always this way. Not so long ago, the comic book movie was few and far between. This really wasn’t a problem, because TV was there to pick up the slack.

The relationship between TV and comic books goes back well over 50 years, and almost every decade had its own defining live-action comic book adaptation. The 1950s had The Adventures of Superman. The 1960s had Batman. The 1970s had Wonder Woman, Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Hulk carried over into the 1980s and was joined by The Flash and Tales from the Crypt. The 1990s brought us Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and the 2000s gave us Smallville. And these shows are just a small sampling of the comics that made their way to television screens.

While there were many comic–based TV shows, that doesn’t mean all were well received. Batman was quite popular at the time it aired, so much so that DC Comics molded the Batman comic book to fit the campy style of the series, but that campy style left a sour taste in the mouths of the next generation of comic book fans. And the production values on Amazing Spider-Man were laughable at the time, absolutely ridiculous by today’s standards.

With the comic book movie boom, comic book TV shows have weened off a bit. However, that might be about to change with the return of Human Target to the airwaves.

The Human Target, as a comic character, was created in 1972 by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. His name was Christopher Chance, a man who would be hired by someone whose life was threatened. Chance would impersonate that person, making himself the target, in an attempt to bring the killer out in the open so they could be captured.

The character appeared mostly in guest appearances and in back-up stories, with only a miniseries and short lived ongoing series from Vertigo to its name. But even still, the concept was strong enough to be brought to the small screen not once, but twice.

The first series arrived in 1992. Developed by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson, the same men who brought The Flash to TV, it starred Rick Springfield as Chance and followed the plotline of the comic quite closely. The show only lasted seven episodes before being cancelled.

The latest version debuted this year and breaks from the comic book quite considerably. Christopher Chance is now a bodyguard-for-hire with a shadowy past and a list of aliases a mile long. Instead of impersonating the potential victim, he impersonates someone close to them—an accountant, an insurance agent, etc—to be there when the assassin makes their move.

As is the trend whenever a comic property is adapted into another medium, there will be a comic book series released so it’s there in case any fan is looking for it. The six-issue Human Target miniseries hits stores this week and features two stories—one written by the character’s creator Len Wein and the other by the producer of the new show, Peter Johnson.

However, the latest version of the series might not outlast the comic book. The series started off strong, and last week’s episode did rank #2 in its time slot, but with a disappointing 2.4/7 rating/share with viewers 18-49 and 7.76 million viewers—a significant drop from the week before. By comparison, the episode of  American Idol that followed it had a 7.7/20 rating/share and 20.83 million viewers.

The show is good, in an old-school, done-in-one detective drama sort of way. And the concept is solid. If nothing else, the TV show brought its comic book counterpart back to life. But if the show doesn’t find its legs soon, it might find itself disappearing into a new identity—two-time TV loser.

Also out this week:

Hit-Monkey #1:

Forget the fact that the character was supposed to debut last week in Deadpool #20, which was delayed to the 24th of this month, and forget that it was originally solicited as Hitman Monkey. All those things are not important now, as Marvel’s obsession with all things simian continues this week with Hit-Monkey, the hitman who is a monkey.

Yes, you read that right. One of the goofiest concepts to come down the pike in a long time hits stores this week. From the preview images I’ve seen of this series, it looks like a quasi-serious treatment of a monkey who is a hired killer. That could be a mistake if true. I mean, if Marvel Apes showed us anything, apes, gorillas and other primates aren’t automatic sells. Trying to make a serious story out of a hitman who is a monkey will drive people away in droves.

Daniel Way (W), Dalibor Talijić (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Muppet King Arthur #1:

The legend of King Arthur as it pertains to his quest to find the Holy Grail is filled with all the elements of a great story. It has action, adventure and camaraderie. It has travel to foreign lands and encounters with exotic people and locales. There is only one thing missing to make the story perfect—Muppets.

Well, that last one will be straightened out this week as the oft-adapted tale receives the Muppet treatment. As was done in Muppet Robin Hood and other stories of that sort, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo replace Arthur, Lancelot and Galahad in a retelling of the classic myth. It’s a story you have heard before, told perhaps just as funny, but not quite as fuzzy. 

Johanna Stokes (W), Amy Mebberson (A), Boom! Studios, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Colt Noble and Megalords:

Fifteen-year old Prince Jaysen has discovered an artifact that turns him into an extremely cut paragon of all that women find attractive. This is the perfect body for him to experience all the fairer sex has to offer. Unfortunately, it is also the perfect body for him to rescue his father, the King, who has been kidnapped. Which will win out—raging hormones or familiar obligations? Well, if you have ever been a teenage boy, you might already know the answer.

Tim Seeley’s He-Man parody web comic leaps off computer screen and onto comic book pages, with bonus materials added to entice longtime fans to pay for something they might have already read. But if you are a person who hasn’t read this and thinks Masters of the Universe is ripe for parody, then this one-shot is for you.

Tim Seeley (W), Mike Diamayuga (A), Image Comics, $5.99. One-Shot.

X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back #1:

If you are keeping track of which title was home to the first appearance of so many great and lasting characters over its history, the X-Titles would have the hold on the lead for the sheer number of them they introduced. Giant-Size X-Men #1 introduced a bunch of great characters—Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus, to name three.

That history has continued with Pixie, a recent creation that has risen in popularity in the X-books. Her role in filling the Kitty Pride/Jubliee innocent young girl role helped, but of all of the new characters created in the last five years, she was the one who rose to the top. She has become popular enough to become the focus of a miniseries. What does the future hold? Well, the future begins here.

Kathryn Immonen (W), Sara Pichelli (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

The Legendary Talespinners #1:

As Fables had shown, the world of fairy tales and nursery rhymes is fertile ground for reimagination. All those stories your parents used to tell you during bedtime are now given modern makeovers, serious spins and racy revamps. All cost nothing because the stories are part of the public domain.

Yes, the success of Fables allows this title to come into existence, and Dynamite is hoping for a little carryover because it mentions the word “fables” no less than three times, once in an obvious comparison to the Vertigo title! Fables didn’t have Baron Munchausen as a character (yet, I think), and it isn’t all-ages like this one, but it is one of the best books on the market. If you are bringing comparisons, you’d better also bring your A-game too.

James Kuhoric (W), Grant Bond (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.99.Three-Issue Miniseries.

Choker #1:

Noir is another big thing in comics today. Everyone seems to be doing it, including Marvel. But a lot of times, it seems publishers are confusing “pulp” with “Noir”. In other words, it is more like the Shadow or Doc Savage than Phillip Marlow. There might not appear to be much of a difference, but there is.

It seems, through the limited amount I’ve seen of this series, that Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith know the difference. This is a tale of a police officer-turned-detective-turned-police-officer-again on the case of a drug dealer with an enticing new product. It is noir updated for today’s times, but still within the realms of the concept. If it stays that way, maybe the series can stand as an instruction manual for all comers in the noir trend.  

Ben McCool (W), Ben Templesmith (A), Image Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

DMZ #50:

February must be Brian Wood month at Vertigo. Last week, we covered the writer’s second volume of Demo debuting under the Vertigo banner. This week, his DMZ reaches its milestone 50th issue. Northlanders is in the middle of an arc, so nothing big should be in the works for the week that comes out. But it is two weeks away, and if Vertigo works quick, maybe it could get something started.

Anyway, Vertigo is celebrating the anniversary in style. You get some extra pages, a bunch of standalone stories, and a veritable who’s who of superstar comic creators such as Fábio Moon, Ryan Kelly and JP Leon. In other words, steady readers get a special treat and new readers get an excellent jumping on point!

Brian Wood (W), Various (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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